As the 2013-2014 schedule was released, lots of people are making more and more playoff predictions for the upcoming season and who is the number one contender to beat the Heat in the East. The East is looking extremely strong this year, in my opinion, as teams like the Cavs and Raptors have opportunities to make their own statements this year. But what I have been hearing for the contenders to beat the Heat, are the Nets, (due to their trade with the C's to get Jason Terry, Paul Pierce and KG), the Pacers, (who have a significant chance after their major run last year that should have ended in a finals trip if Hibbert played in the final seconds of game one), and the Knicks (who definitely are not going to be able to touch the Heat as JR Smith won't have a standout season like last year). But what about the Chicago Bulls?!
For one, the Bulls made it to the second round of the playoffs to face the Heat WITHOUT Derrick Rose, WITHOUT Luol Deng in some playoff games, and WITHOUT Kirk Hinrich in some playoff games. On top of that, they beat the Heat in one game which is outstanding. Even though Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls were down their starting and backup point guard, they managed to beat the Nets in a grueling seven game series and beat the Heat once. The only reason they did this, is due to Tom Thibodeau's coaching. Although their roster wasn't looking sharp, his defensive coaching mind helped them pick up key victories throughout the season and playoffs. They lacked offensive scoring as they were the lowest scoring team in the NBA, but Tom Thibodeau helped secure a defensive presence in all of his players, which will greatly help them to beat the Heat in the next season.
Besides that point, I think people are forgetting just how good the Bulls were when they had all their stars playing the 2011-2012 season. They did finish 50-16 in the lockout-shorted season, and took the number one seed in the Eastern Conference for the second straight season. Here are some stat lines that Bulls players had during the 2011-2012 regular season (all stats from NBA.com):
Derrick Rose: 21.8 ppg, 7.9 apg, 3.4 rpg
Luol Deng: 15.3 ppg, 2.9 apg, 6.5 rpg
Those were just their top two scorers, but with the addition of Carlos Boozer who also averaged about 15 ppg and 8.5 rpg and All Star Joakim Noah who averaged 10 ppg and 10 rpg, this team was easily a top tier team. The scariest part is, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer all improved last seaon, not in just scoring, but in other aspects of the game such as rebounding, which is one thing the Heat lack. The Bulls have a large interior presence, and that is what kept them running when facing the Heat as they out-rebounded them greatly in the playoffs. In the 2012-2013 season, Deng, Noah and Boozer combined for grabbing 27.2 boards per game.
Also, everyone is forgetting one major aspect of the Bulls team: Derrick Rose. Yes, he has come off an injury, but he took a whole year off to recover and get to nearly 100% for his #return. Furthermore, Derrick Rose is the one piece that weaves this Bulls team together. They already have an outstanding interior who grabs boards, and they have a fairly strong perimeter in Deng and Jimmy Butler, and now with D-Rose back, they will have a true point guard who can score. Lastly, who was that player in the 2010-2011 season to end LeBron from being the MVP three times in a row? Oh yeah, it was Derrick Rose.
Lastly, the Bulls have another weapon in their arsenal that isn't even at his prime yet: Jimmy Butler. This kid is a future All Star in my opinion and has everything you want in a player. He played almost every minute of the Heat-Bulls series and had the toughest job ever-- guard the King. Despite of that, he still managed to score 13 points and grab 5 boards a game in the postseason which really created a name for himself. Let's not forget his marvelous poster he put on Chris Bosh.
All in all, with a true point guard, who happens to be MVP and an All Star, back in the lineup for the Bulls, I think they deserve to be in the talks to be the ones who finally put the Heat down in the upcoming season. They will finally have a true scorer and passer and on top of that a strong defense, and monsters on the glass. Think about this starting line-up: Rose, Deng, Butler, Boozer and Noah. That's pretty strong if you ask me. All I am saying is, the Heat better watch out. We'll see what happens opening night on October 29th, 2013 at 8:00 PM, Heat vs. Bulls.